The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


August 16, 2012

Methadone clinic opens along Susquehanna Trail near Watsontown

WATSONTOWN — An outpatient methadone treatment center with a license to treat 105 opiate addicts has quietly opened in Northumberland County, two years after protests derailed plans for a similar facility in a Union County industrial park seven miles away.

“There hasn’t been a large reaction. Some are happy we’re here and some folks are very much in harsh denial that there’s an addiction problem,” said Jonathon Wasp, the methadone clinic’s interim program director.

Many weren’t even aware Delaware Township had approved a zoning permit to Habit OPCO, a Boston-based health organization that serves nearly 9,000 patients daily at 20 substance-abuse clinics across the Northeast, including those in Allentown, Pottstown and Dunmore, as well as in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont.

“There wasn’t much to talk about it since it’s zoning approved,” Bill Michael, secretary/treasurer of Delaware Township, said of the lack of fanfare surrounding the new business at 759 Susquehanna Trail, located within highway-commercial zoned property.

Union County District Attorney D. Peter Johnson, Northumberland County President Judge Robert B. Sacavage and Senior Judge Harold F. Woelfel Jr. said they had no inkling about the clinic, which served its first patient Aug. 7, until contacted Wednesday by The Daily Item.

Sacavage, who has presided for more than five years over a drug treatment court that provides nonviolent offenders a chance to get clean and sober while under supervision, said the court will not refer addicts to the clinic.

“It’s not consistent with our treatment philosophy since it involves the continued use of a drug. We will not tolerate even a scintilla of a drug,” he said referring to methadone and suboxone, which are narcotics. “We don’t believe we can deliver proper treatment to someone under the influence.”

Woelfel, who oversees treatment court in Snyder and Union counties, agreed and said neither methadone nor suboxone are considered by the court as acceptable remedies to treating heroin and other opiate addictions.

“We don’t encourage using one drug for another,” said Craig Fasold, Snyder County’s chief adult probation officer. However, if an expert treating an offender under supervision refers him or her to a methadone clinic, Fasold’s office would support it.  

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